June 02, 2018
A Passion Discovered
There are a lot of familiar stories out there about the moment a driver knew they wanted to get into racing: Attending a race on a whim, meeting a neighbor who races, or even seeing a racecar on an open trailer rolling down the freeway. For me, that moment was experienced in the passenger seat of a Dodge Hellcat, hurtling sideways through the corners of the Bondurant test track, with driving instructor Andy Lee leaving miles of smoke behind us. In that moment, I knew that I wanted to drive fast for the rest of my life.
My new found passion for racing was simply the logical evolution of my love for cars. The bold lines of a Lamborghini Diablo, the menacing face of a Dodge Charger. You can’t help but feel excited just standing near vehicles like that, taking them in. I learned every fact, watched every video I could on cars that go fast. Eventually, being able to quote the 0-60 time of any car wasn’t enough. I wanted to experience that, which is what pushed me to racing. Before I could really dive in, however, my life was turned upside down in a manner far more intimidating than the aggressive look of a sports car.
Make a Wish
I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at age 16. Shortly after my diagnosis, I was lucky to have a wish granted by the Make-A-Wish foundation. For my wish, I chose to go to the Bondurant School of High Performance Driving. Unfortunately, I had to place the realization of my wish on hold for almost a year and a half, due to a relapse and bone marrow transplant. Once I did go, it proved to be well worth the wait!
I spent five heavenly days at Bondurant, driving Dodge Vipers, Hellcats and Formula Mazda cars. I learned that performance driving has a lot more to it than just putting your right foot down. I learned that to balance the car, combining precision with power. At the end of my experience, I asked Andy how to become a better driver, and how to start racing. He told me that there was no better way to get started than to try the sport of karting.
I obtained my first kart just a few weeks after my Bondurant experience. I began putting down laps at Unser Centennial almost immediately. While I wasn’t immediately fast, I was having a good time, even if I spent a fair amount of time in the dirt. I love being able to work on improving my skills, and bettering myself as a driver. Karting has become an escape for me; when I am at the track, my cancer and all the other bad things in life disappear—I can be happy! By racing, I am able to prove that my disease does not define me, and that it won’t stop me from pursuing what I love.
I’m currently undergoing an alternative form of chemotherapy which allows me to feel good enough to drive most days. This has given me the opportunity to finally start competing in races. I had my first race this past weekend at IMI Motorsports Complex, and it was an amazing experience! Just by showing up and competing, I felt a massive sense of accomplishment. To that point I already had spent many hours invested in improving my driving and pushing myself. I was never sure if I would be able to compete, and in that moment at IMI in April, there I was, doing it!
I hope to partake in the full 2018 Colorado Karting Tour season. At this point unfortunately, I may have to take it one race at a time, because I have an upcoming additional transplant which I may have to start preparing for any day now. Depending on my condition, I may be able to race, or I may not. Knowing this, I cherish every opportunity I get to drive as if it was my last.
A New Community
One thing I did not expect from those in racing was the kindness that I have been shown, and the friendships that have formed. Everyone has been so friendly, ready to help at a moment’s notice. This makes everything so much better on race day, especially when going into the intimidating space that is motor racing. During my first race, the neighboring trailer saw me struggling to change my tires, came over to help me. When I needed to check the alignment, another racer brought over their sniper tool to make sure things were ok.
At every corner around the pits at Colorado kart tracks, there is somebody who is ready to help as I begin to learn the sport. I really appreciate that the Colorado karting community has made this experience incredible so far! I would like to especially thank all of the volunteers who organize the races I have attended so far. It is extremely generous of you all to donate so much of your time to us. You do an amazing job, and help bring joy to so many people.
Ultimately I wouldn’t be racing today if it wasn’t for the generosity of the Make-A-Wish foundation and the team at Bondurant. I have remained friends with my instructors Andy Lee and Canaan O’Connell, even traveling to watch them in professional races multiple times.
If you’re at a track in Colorado and see a #23 Tonykart with a Rotax Senior engine, that’s me! Come say hello, and we can talk racing. I would love to meet some of the other racers from Colorado!